Chickens occupy an important place in Indonesian history and culture. The most famous article by American anthropologist Clifford Geertz, who spent several years in Indonesia, is entitled Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight (1973). Geertz notes that the Indonesian word for rooster, jago, also means gangster, strongman, or thug. Gangs led by jagos have roamed the Indonesian countryside for centuries, making it unsafe for most. They played an essential role in the Indonesian revolution, as the Indonesian army was still small and in the process of being established. Cockfights, Geertz explains, are symbolic ways for jagos (gangsters) to demonstrate who has the strongest and most agile jago (cock, rooster). These cockfights attract widespread attention, even though the practice is officially frowned upon.
The famous Indonesian painter Affandi (who applied paint straight from the tube to the canvas, dispensing with paint brushes altogether) has produced numerous paintings with chickens, roosters, and cock fights. These paintings are very colourful and expressive, deftly expressing the fierceness of cockfights.